12 Backpacking Essentials For Summer


The arrival of spring signals the start of backpacking season. With a couple of quick Sierra trips already under my belt, I look forward to extended backpacking endeavors in both North America and Europe over the summer. Below you will find a few of my backpacking essentials. This list by no means covers everything (you still need gear like clothes, shoes, first aid kit, headlamp, compass, map, etc.), but will make a great base to start from for any backpacking adventure.

1. Osprey Exos 58 ($220): This backpack is roomy enough to swallow a bear can along with all the other essentials, but light enough (weighs less than 3 lbs) not to add to your burden. Removable straps at the base of the pack come in handy for securing your sleeping pad or even tent if it doesn't fit inside. As summer backpacking usually brings with it heat, the raised mesh backpanel keeps air circulating across your back. Truly versatile, the removable lid and numerous cinch cords mean the pack can be converted for day hikes around camp. A large front and two mesh side pockets offer up extra storage space for tent poles, water bottles, river crossing shoes, and gas canisters.  

2. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite ($160): A carry over from last summer, this is my go-to camping pad. Yes, it can be crinkly with the reflective barrier but it weighs nothing, packs down small, adds warmth, and is extremely comfortable. 

3. Sierra Designs DriDown Zissou 6 ($360): For early season backpacking, the nights can get quite cold and the mornings damp. This single digit rated (more realistically into the mid-teens for women) sleeping bag saw me through the winter and will continue into the summer, as the DriDown means I don't have to worry about the bag wetting out three days into a trip. 

4. Sierra Designs Mojo ($370 for the 3 person): I am currently reviewing a ton of tents for Backpacker, so as not to spoil the surprise, listed here is one of my all time favorite solo backpacking tents that served me well for everything from packrafting in Alaska and climbing in Canada to cycling down the California coast last summer. Sadly, I don't think Sierra Designs makes the 2-person version any longer, but you can still find the 3-person version out there. 

5. Platypus Gravityworks Filter ($120): Nothing can be easier for filtering water than the Gravityworks—simply fill the Dirty reservoir with 4L of water, hang it from a tree, and minutes later you have 4L of clean water for drinking and cooking. 

6. MSR Reactor Stove ($190-$200): Lightweight, self-stowing, and simple to use, this stove is a power house—one of the fastest water boiling times due to the integrated heat exchanger and built in wind protection. Comes in a 1L (perfect for solo adventures) and 1.7L version. 

7. Bear Vault ($80): A large part of the West is bear country so you can't backpack anywhere without your bear can. Even though you can rent one from many places, it is worthwhile to invest in your own if you plan to use it often. 

8. RAVPower Duo Portable Charger Plus Lantern ($90): Not only can this palm size device charge your gadgets from the 7800 mAh high capacity battery, but serves as a flashlight or lantern at the same time. Gotta love mutli-functional gear. 

9. Bushnell SolarWrap Mini ($60): For longer trips where I need to top up my phone, watch, satellite messenger, or GPS more than once, this tiny battery and fold out solar panel does the trick. Simply hook it to your pack all day to recharge, then by the time you roll into camp at night, the battery will be ready to charge your gadgets. 

10: Alite Designs Cloverware Lite ($6): Spork and serrated knife, all in one cute, tiny package. What's not to love?

11. Good To-Go Food: Keep on eye on this company. If you ever wanted to eat real food in the backcountry but couldn't be bothered or don't have the time to cook and dehydrate all those meals yourself, Good To-Go does it all for you. Founded by award winning chef Jennifer Scism, these all natural meals want nothing to do with additives and preservatives and they taste great. 

12: Stanley Outdoor Clip Grip Mug ($25): This double wall mug serves double duty for both coffee and food—plus the lid keeps leftovers from spilling all over your gear. The Clip Grip handle makes it easy to connect to the outside of your pack. 

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